Ole Miss senior Quarterback Brent Schaeffer stood at a podium surrounded by a dozen or so members of the media with, as the old saying goes, his hat in his hand, humbled by his experiences of the past two years and grateful for his last opportunity to do something special at Ole Miss.
Schaeffer, with a decent week of practice, will start against Mississippi State in the annual Egg Bowl.
"I appreciate the chance. I will do the best I can with this opportunity," said the soft-spoken Schaeffer. "I didn't know if I'd ever get a chance to start again. I just tried to tune all of that out this year and just do the right things.
"It means a lot to me to get the shot. I am going to make the most of it because it means a lot to me beyond football. It means a lot to me from a life point of view. I have learned some lessons this year that I really needed to learn. If this (sitting on the bench) had happened to me two or three years ago, I would have quit, but I have grown up and this opportunity lets me know there is a reward for doing good and doing right."
Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner believes Brent deserves something good to happen to him for the efforts he has put in this season.
"Brent, Coach O and I sat down before the season and had a long talk. Basically, we told him the truth - that he had to step it up on and off the field," said Werner. "He has done everything - big and little - we asked and has been a model of responsibility and accountability. He's doing what you have to do on this level to succeed, everywhere."
One of Brent's close friends, WR Shay Hodge, says Brent is a different person this year.
"He's grown into a man, a fine young man," said Hodge. "Brent has become a leader and has shown all of us how to handle adversity with dignity. He's been a role model for me this year - encouraging us on the sidelines, working hard and being a team guy. He deserves whatever good comes his way."
Brent's career has been checkered, to say the least. From an ill-fated semester at Tennessee to a successful JUCO tenure to an erratic stint the last two seasons at Ole Miss. He's run the gauntlet.
"It's been an up-and-down journey. I read a book titled The Education of a Wandering Man about a guy who had been a lot of places and how each experience had made him who he was," Schaeffer reflected. "I can relate to that.
"My time here has helped me mature a lot. I've had a lot of life lessons here. I learned there are things that happen in life that don't go your way, but you have to work through them and try to be the best person you can be. As they say, tough times don't last but tough people do."
Schaeffer said he couldn't have made his transformation without help.
"My family, my teammates and my coaches - I have leaned on all of them a lot and they have been there for me," he continued. "Nobody ever turned their back on me, even during the tough times last year.
"They watched me evolve and grow up and helped me along the way. I am more mature now than I was when I first came here and I am also more grateful. I don't take anything for granted any more. Little, small things I used to not even notice, I notice now. Those things used to be nothing to me, but now I see. It's part of becoming a man. I understand the significance of the little things in life now. Before, they meant nothing to me."
Brent said he does not regret his decision to come to Ole Miss, despite it being "rough" from the football perspective.
"I learned a lot here. My Ole Miss experience has helped me become a better person and my football time here will not hold me back from doing what I want to do in life. If anything, it's helped me get there," he claimed. "The people here have been good to me. I have made some lifelong friendships here that I cherish."
Brent said he's got dreams of staying in football after Ole Miss.
"Everyone on this level has a dream to go to the next level. If that does not pan out, I will get my degree and get in the coaching profession. I think I have a lot to offer young people in terms of what to do and what not to do. I've been in football a long, long time and I think I am equipped to get in that profession," he noted.
The immediate task is to get ready for Mississippi State, that has a stingy defense and is playing for a lot.
"They are tenacious and are very physical. They play good, sound football. I respect what they have accomplished and know we will have to play a great game to win," he added. "We just have to come out and play to win.
"I had a lot of fun last Saturday against LSU. I was in a rhythm for the first time since I have been here. It felt good to be out there and to have fun playing football again."
What would a win Friday mean to Brent?
"It would mean a lot. We need that as a team. Some of these young guys need it to carry it over into the offseason. It would do a lot for the future of this program," Schaeffer stated. "We work so hard and these young guys deserve some good things to happen. They deserve some inspiration for their efforts."
It took Brent Schaeffer what seemed like a long time to reach what everyone expected of him the day he stepped on campus.
There have been trials and tribulations along the way. Most of them have been his own doing based on his own choices.
But the story has a happy ending for him, win or lose against Mississippi State.
He came here a boy. He leaves a man.
Brent Schaeffer -
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